Optimal Recovery Time Between Sets For Muscle Growth?


Do you feel like you're not seeing the muscle growth you want from your strength training routine? One factor you may be overlooking is the recovery time between sets. Traditionally, 30-90 seconds of recovery time between sets have been recommended for muscle growth based on the belief that they induce greater increases in anabolic hormone levels. However, recent research suggests that a longer recovery may be more beneficial for muscle growth.

According to a systematic review by Grgic et al. (2017), longer rests between sets allow for better recovery, which can lead to more substantial muscle growth. Shorter series recoveries may actually cause central nervous system fatigue, which reduces the muscle's ability to recruit motor units and can lead to poorer muscle growth.

A study by Longo and colleagues (2020) found that a longer recovery time between sets (3 minutes) led to stronger hypertrophic responses than a shorter recovery time (1 minute). However, individuals may adapt to shorter recovery time between sets over time and be able to maintain the volume load of the exercise, promoting exercise efficiency (Schoenfeld et al. 2020).

So, what is the optimal recovery time between sets for muscle hypertrophy? As a general recommendation, multijoint exercises should have a minimum of 2-minute recovery between sets, while single-joint exercises and some equipment movements can use shorter recoveries of 60-90 seconds. The optimal recovery time between sets is influenced by factors such as how strenuous the movement is, how close to failure the movement is performed, and the intensity of the movement. When the exertion is close to the maximum and the intensity is high, longer series recoveries may be necessary to maintain performance.

In hypertrophic strength training, it may be beneficial to use longer rests between sets (3-4 minutes) for heavy multijoint movements at the beginning of the exercise and then switch to shorter recoveries for single-joint movements towards the end of the exercise (Grgic et al. 2017; Schoenfeld et al. 2021).

In summary, the length of recovery time between sets can significantly impact muscle growth. While short bursts of 30-90 seconds have traditionally been recommended, recent research suggests that longer recovery between sets may be more beneficial. By adjusting the length of recovery time based on the type of exercise and intensity of the movement, you can optimize your strength training routine for maximum muscle growth.

Grgic, J., Lazinica, B., Mikulic, P., Krieger, J. W., & Schoenfeld, B. J. (2017). The effects of short versus long inter-set rest intervals in resistance training on measures of muscle hypertrophy: A systematic review. European journal of sport science, 17(8), 983-993.

Schoenfeld, B. J. (2020). Science and development of muscle hypertrophy. Human Kinetics.

Schoenfeld, B., Fisher, J., Grgic, J., Haun, C., Helms, E., Phillips, S., ... & Vigotsky, A. (2021). Resistance training recommendations to maximize muscle hypertrophy in an athletic population: Position stand of the IUSCA. International Journal of Strength and Conditioning, 1(1).